Who invented the mobile side menu concept? [UI]


There are many articles addressing the question: “who invented the burger menu icon” (that 3 stripes icon we all use to open a side menu in our mobile apps). But not many people know the origins of the side menu concept.

Being an old man, I recently came across a very old blog post I wrote years ago (back in 2008 when my smartphone ran Windows Mobile…) that talks about Mozilla Fennec – Mozilla’s first attempt to create a mobile web browser.

It was designed to run on Windows Mobile and as you can see from the design documents below – it included 2 innovative gestures to bring in and out additional side panels from the left and right sides. Wow.


The design document included the following:

Problem: Add functionality to the reader mode while still maintaining a chromeless, reading focused layout.
Solution: Introduce off screen menus rendered visible with swiping gestures.

And this was in 2008, short after the first iPhone was introduced and just to remind you – the iPhone did have side menus included in the design guidelines.

To my knowledge, this was the first time in the history of mobile software that a side menu was pushed-in and out of the screen to expose additional capabilities beyond the screen real-estate. It was the first side menu ever.

Who invented the mobile side menu? The Mobile Spoon

Then came the burger icon and the rest is history; the side menu became a mobile standard and a perfect way for popular apps to create a unified experience across operating systems and device types (even beyond mobile).

User interface guides and best practices:

Of course, after few years in which all the leading apps used a side menu – there is now a new trend to switch back to traditional tabs replacing the side menu: the best example is facebook that adopted the side menu few years ago and now switched back to iOS style tabs. Apple never included the side menu as a “best practice” for its’ iOS UX guidelines so who knows, maybe we are witnessing the end of the side menu era.


Gil Bouhnick The Mobile Spoon
Gabriel massa said…
is it still a valid way